HMS Russell

Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co. Ltd.
Jarrow-on-Tyne, England
Pennant Number:
February 19, 1901
Keel Laid:
March 11, 1899
February 1903
Sunk Apr. 27, 1916 by a mine laid by SMS U-73 (Kapitänleutnant Gustav Seiss)

Location: Mediterranean Sea, 4 miles off the entrance to the Grand Harbor, Malta.
(Wreck located in July 2003)

At least 122 crewmen killed, 625 survivors.
(Roll of Honour)

Battle Honours
St. Kitts (1782)
The Saints (1782)
First of June (1794)
Groix Island (1795)
Camperdown (1797)
Copenhagen (1801)
Baltic (1855)
Belgian Coast (1914)
Dardanelles (1915-1916)

Commanding Officers
Feb. 1903
Apr. 1904
Captain Alfred Leigh Winsloe, CVO, CMG, RN
Apr. 1904
Dec. 1905
Captain Thomas Henry Martyn Jerram, R.N.
Dec. 1905
Nov. 1906
Captain Robert Swinburne Lowry, RN
Nov. 1906
Aug. 1907
Captain Frederick Alexander Warden, RN
Aug. 1907 July 1909 Captain Arthur David Ricardo, RN
July 1909 Feb. 1911 Captain William De Salis, MVO, RN
Feb. 1911
Mar. 1911
Captain Stuart Nicholson, RN
Mar. 1911
Mar. 1913
Captain George Walter Smith, RN
Mar. 1913
Dec. 1913
Captain Herbert Arthur Stevenson Fyler, RN
Dec. 1913
Apr. 27, 1916
Captain William Bowden-Smith, RN

Combat Victories (None)

Ship's History (Wikipedia)
Russell was named after Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford, a former Royal Navy officer and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in the 17th century. She was laid down by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow on 11 March 1899 and launched on 19 February 1902. She arrived at Sheerness later the same month and went to Chatham Dockyard for steam and gun-mounting trials. Construction of Russell was completed in February 1903. During her sea trials, she was painted in the black and buff paint scheme used during the Victorian period, though after entering service she was repainted in the new grey paint scheme.

Russell commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 19 February 1903 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet, in which she served until April 1904. On 7 April 1904 she recommissioned for service in the Home Fleet. When the Home Fleet became the Channel Fleet in January 1905, she became a Channel Fleet unit. She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in February 1907. In July 1908, Russell visited Canada during the Quebec Tercentenary, in company with her sister ships Albemarle, Duncan, and Exmouth. While there on 16 July she collided with the cruiser Venus off Quebec, but suffered only minor damage.

In 1909, Russell had her armament overhauled, which included the installation of new traversing and elevation gear and sighting equipment. She also had identification bands painted onto her funnels. On 30 July 1909, Russell transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet. Under a fleet reorganisation of 1 May 1912, the Mediterranean Fleet became the 4th Battle Squadron, First Fleet, Home Fleet, and changed its base from Malta to Gibraltar; Russell transferred to home waters in August 1912. In September 1913, Russell was reduced to a nucleus crew in the commissioned reserve and assigned to the 6th Battle Squadron, Second Fleet. Beginning in December 1913, she served as Flagship, 6th Battle Squadron, and Flagship, Rear Admiral, Home Fleet, at the Nore. During this period, the ship had her anti-torpedo nets removed.

On 7–8 July 1914, Russell ferried representatives of the British government, led by Lord Beauchamp, from Dover to Guernsey to attend the unveiling of a monument to Victor Hugo. French government representatives were carried by the French cruiser Dupetit-Thouars.

When World War I began in August 1914, plans originally called for Russell and battleships Agamemnon, Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, Exmouth, and Vengeance to combine in the 6th Battle Squadron and serve in the Channel Fleet, where the squadron was to patrol the English Channel and cover the movement of the British Expeditionary Force to France. However, plans also existed for the 6th Battle Squadron to be assigned to the Grand Fleet. When the war began, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, requested that Russell and her four surviving sister ships of the Duncan class (Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, and Exmouth) be assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet for patrol duties to make up for the Grand Fleet's shortage of cruisers. Accordingly, the 6th Battle Squadron was abolished temporarily. Russell, Exmouth, and Albemarle were the only ships in a condition to immediately join Jellicoe, so they left without the rest of the squadron on 5 August. They arrived in Scapa Flow on the night of 7–8 August. The ships worked with Grand Fleet cruisers on the Northern Patrol.

Russell and her four Duncan-class sisters, as well as the battleships of the King Edward VII class, were temporarily transferred to the Channel Fleet on 2 November 1914 as reinforcements in the face of German Navy activity in the Channel Fleet's area. The following day, the German fleet raided Yarmouth; at the time, Russell and the rest of the 3rd Squadron were dispersed on the Northern Patrol, and were thus unavailable during the German attack. On 13 November 1914 the King Edward VII-class ships returned to the Grand Fleet, but Russell and the other Duncans stayed in the Channel Fleet, where they reconstituted the 6th Battle Squadron on 14 November 1914, with Russell serving as the squadron's flagship. The squadron was based at Portland, although it transferred immediately, 14 November, to Dover. However, due a lack of antisubmarine defences at Dover, particularly after the harbour's anti-submarine boom was swept away in a gale, it returned to Portland on 19 November 1914.

The 6th Battle Squadron was given a mission of bombarding German submarine bases on the coast of Belgium, and Russell participated in the bombardment of German submarine facilities at Zeebrugge on 23 November 1914 in company with Exmouth. The two ships left Portland on 21 November accompanied by eight destroyers, a group of trawlers, and a pair of airships to observe the fall of shot, though the airships failed to arrive in time for the operation. Russell and Exmouth closed to 6,000 yards (5,500 m) of the port and shelled the harbour, the railroad station, and coastal defences. The two ships fired some 400 shells in total and observed several fires ashore; reports from Dutch observers indicated significant damage had been inflicted, but the attack achieved very little and discouraged the Royal Navy from continuing such bombardments.

The 6th Battle Squadron returned to Dover in December 1914, then transferred to Sheerness on 30 December to relieve the 5th Battle Squadron there in guarding against a German invasion of the United Kingdom. Between January and May 1915, the 6th Battle Squadron was dispersed. Russell and Albemarle remained with the Grand Fleet through April; on 19 April, they were detached from the fleet base at Rosyth to conduct training exercises in Scapa Flow. They rejoined the fleet for a sortie on 21 April Russell left the squadron in April 1915 and rejoined the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet at Rosyth. She underwent a refit at Belfast in October–November 1915. During this refit she received a pair of 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns on her quarterdeck.

On 6 November 1915, a division of the 3rd Battle Squadron consisting of battleships Hibernia (the flagship), Zealandia, Albemarle, and Russell was detached from the Grand Fleet to reinforce the British Dardanelles Squadron in the Gallipoli Campaign at the Gallipoli Peninsula. Russell was at that time in Belfast, and she joined the other ships while they were en route. Albemarle had to turn back almost immediately due to heavy weather damage, but the other ships continued to the Mediterranean, where Russell took up her duties at the Dardanelles in December 1915, based at Mudros with Hibernia and held back in support. Her only action in the campaign was her participation in the evacuation of Cape Helles from 7 January to 9 January 1916, and she was the last battleship of the British Dardanelles Squadron to leave the area. She relieved Hibernia as Divisional Flagship, Rear Admiral, in January 1916.

After the conclusion of the Dardanelles campaign, Russell stayed on in the eastern Mediterranean. Russell was steaming off Malta early on the morning of 27 April 1916 when she struck two naval mines that had been laid by the German submarine U-73. A fire broke out in the after part of the ship and the order to abandon ship was passed; after an explosion near the after 12-inch (305 mm) turret, she took on a dangerous list. However, she sank slowly, allowing most of her crew to escape. A total of 27 officers and 98 ratings were lost. John H. D. Cunningham served aboard her at the time as a lieutenant commander and survived her sinking; he would one day become First Sea Lord.

According to the naval historian R. A. Burt, insufficient internal subdivision, which limited the ability of the crew to counter-flood to offset underwater damage, contributed significantly to the loss of Russell and her sister Cornwallis, both of which listed badly before sinking.

The wreck was examined for the first time in 2003 by a British dive team; the ship lies at a depth of 63 fathoms (115 m) about 3.2 nautical miles (6 km) from the Delimara Peninsula. Her stern was blown off by the mine.

Page published Feb. 1, 2007